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from Expert Zone:

Chinese general warns India even as Antony visits Beijing

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

India’s Defence Minister A. K. Antony is in Beijing on an official visit and a provocative curtain-raiser was provided by a retired major general of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who cautioned India not to “provoke new problems and increase military deployments at the border area and stir up new trouble.”

Predictably, this statement by Major General Luo Yuan, who is associated with the PLA’s Academy of Military Sciences, hit the headlines in both countries. Luo is no stranger to such controversy and has in the past made shrill and hostile remarks to local media and in Chinese cyberspace about Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. One assertion - since denied - was that China should bomb Tokyo if Japan stepped out of line in relation to the long-standing island dispute between the two East Asian neighbours.

Luo is among a handful of former PLA personnel who have been taking an extremely hardline stand and advocate Chinese military assertiveness to deal with complex territorial disputes that the political leadership in Beijing is trying to address through political dialogue. The  question that engages China watchers in the region and globally is the degree to which such views are reflective of the tension between hardliners and moderates in the  Chinese political  leadership - and among the opaque strategic community that is grappling with many such issues under the veil of authoritarian secrecy.

Luo’s remarks are in sharp contrast to the more official position echoed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting in Brunei this week said his discussion with his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid had been cordial:

from FaithWorld:

Malaysia’s Young Imam reality TV show widens reach to Southeast Asia

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(Finalists of Malaysia's paid TV programme "Young Imam, Season 2" pose after its live telecast in Kuala Lumpur April 18, 2011. The finalists are, from left; Najdi, Azlan, Mujahid, Amar, Fakhrul, Nazrul, Hassan, Fadli, Fatah and Ali. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad )

(Finalists of Malaysia's paid TV programme "Young Imam, Season 2" pose after its live telecast in Kuala Lumpur April 18, 2011/Bazuki Muhammad )

A hit Malaysian Islamic reality TV show kicked off its second season this week after drawing more than 1,000 hopefuls from the region in a sign of the religion's growing reach in Southeast Asia. Combining a reality TV format with Islamic teachings, the "Imam Muda" or "Young Imam" show is a talent contest for male Muslims aged between 18 and 27 who can speak Malay, with the winner crowned an Imam or religious leader.

from Reuters Investigates:

The fresh Prince of Brunei

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BRUNEI/By Mark Hosenball

The veins of Prince Jefri of Brunei may course with Royal blood and, though depleted by years of lawsuits, his bank accounts probably still hold enough riches to fund an imperial lifestyle. But the brother of the Sultan of Brunei didn’t get much respect from British High Court Judge Sir Peter Smith when, two years ago, Jefri failed to appear in court for a scheduled cross-examination on his tangled legal and financial affairs. (For a special report on Prince Jefri's legal battles, click here. )

Sir Peter, who gained international attention  as the Judge who wove his own secret message into a ruling he handed down rejecting a literary theft claim filed against “Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown, showed little deference to Prince Jefri’s royal status when handing down a decision to issue a bench warrant for the prince’s immediate arrest if he sets foot on British soil.

from Andrew Marshall:

Asia: Risks to watch this week

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PAKISTAN/

For my regular weekly roundup of key risks to watch in Asia, click here

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

France draws up tax blacklist, to apply sanctions

PARIS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - France has drawn up a list of 18 countries accused of failing to cooperate on tax issues, and will slap punitive taxes on certain financial transactions involving them, an official document showed on Tuesday.

The document, obtained by Reuters, was signed by Economy Minister Christine Lagarde and Budget Minister Eric Woerth and lists Central American and Asian countries as well as tiny Caribbean and Pacific island nations.

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